Archive for July, 2012

Join me please in welcome back the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, my loving tribute to the exquisite science fiction series crafted by Lois McMaster Bujold.  This week I finish the last two chapters of Ethan of Athos, the book which doesn’t really feature our usual protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan, but does well enough for all of that.  It’s really all denouement, but a satisfactory one, at least.

Chapter Fourteen

Ethan goes to visit Quinn in the Minimum Security detention blocks, passing through security checks without incident but feeling vaguely guilty anyway.  He encounters Captain Arata outside the infirmary, who tells him that Quinn’s managed to settle her fines, and is just waiting for her medical release.  Ethan says he just wants to ask her a question.

“As did I,” sighed Arata. “Several. I trust you will have better luck getting answers. These past few weeks, when I wanted a date, all she wanted to do was trade information under the counter. Now I want information, and what do I get? A date.” He brightened slightly. “We will doubtless talk shop. If I worm any more out of her, maybe I’ll be able to charge our night out to the department.” He nodded at Ethan; an inviting silence fell.

Ethan wishes him luck.  Quinn had concocted a story which managed to fit all the available evidence while omitting any mention of Terrance Cee, or even Okita, claiming the Cetagandans had been trying to capture Quinn to program as a spy against the Dendarii.  The Bharaputrans were in their embassy negotatiating their deportation.  Arata laments pointedly that he can’t use fast-penta without a court order and leaves.  Ethan looks around Quinn’s room and wistfully notes the lack of openable windows.

“How do you feel about windows that open?” he asked Quinn. “Downside, I mean.”

“Paranoid,” she answered promptly. “I keep looking around for things to seal them up with. Aren’t you going to ask how I am?”

Quinn is mostly fine, a little bruised and her dislocated arm in a sling, back in her Dendarii uniform and only a little stiff.  She asks how he feels about women now, and he says about the same as she feels about windows.  She admits she did get used to windows, but she was always a thrill-seeker.  Her first downside experience, though, after a lifetime of dreaming about warm ocean breezes, brought her down into a blizzard.  Ethan sympathizes, and Quinn points out that his ability to empathize with others is a rare and unexpected quality for an Athosian.

Ethan nervously asks Quinn if he may make an unusual, and possibly offensive, request.  He tells her that he’s going to continue his quest for ovarian cultures, probably on Beta Colony, but, in the circumstances, he asks her if she’d like to donate an ovary to Athos herself.  Quinn is quite surprised by the request; Ethan assures her that it’s painless, and Kline Station has all the facilities he needs.  Quinn assures him that she has one to spare, and confesses that she’d been expecting a much different proposition from him.  Quinn asks who could make use of her donation, and Ethan says anyone could; she could have a hundred sons in a year, though of course no daughters.  Quinn muses that her line of work isn’t conducive to parenthood, but that she’d never get to see her sons.  Ethan said he could probably push his influence to sending her a holocube if she wanted, or half-seriously suggests she could impersonate a man and sneak down to the planet herself.

Quinn notes that Ethan is even cheekier than Arata was, especially since he doesn’t over her anything in return.  She wonders if the planet can handle a hundred little Quinns, and Ethan assures her that potential fathers are screened very carefully.  She agrees to the donation.

After the operation Ethan and Quinn meet in a small cafe.  Quinn says the operation was, as promised, quite painless, and there’s not even a scar; Ethan says the culture is taking quite nicely, so in 48 hours or so he’ll be leaving for Beta Colony.  Quinn says she’ll be leaving that night, before any more trouble with the Stationers, or the Cetagandans.  She does reassure Ethan that Millisor had informed his superiors about Helda’s destruction of the cultures before his death, though they will still be looking for Terrence Cee.  She had ample reports for Admiral Naismith, and all that remains is Cee himself, who appears at the cafe himself.

Cee delivers a refrigerated box, containing a tissue sample, and three data discs to Quinn, who laments that Cee isn’t joining the Dendarii after all.  Cee says his choices have opened up, thanks to her, and Quinn reminds her that the offer will remain open.  Quinn says she’s managed to find another recruit, a migrant worker who oddly enough manages to look a lot like Terrence Cee, which should help throw off the Cetagandans’ trail.  Cee isn’t sure where he’s going himself, except away from Cetaganda.  He suggests that Quinn conceal the box, and she says she has a good idea on how to do that.

Quinn arrives at the Cold Storage station with a freezer transport box and asks for her newts, and they needn’t bother thawing them since she’s shipping them frozen.  While they’re waiting, Teki comes in with an urgent disposal, and is a little put out with Quinn for his experienced at the Cetagandans’ hands, though he admits that his girlfriend, at least, was sympathetic about his sufferings.  He pleads with her to tell him what was really going on, and Quinn promises, as soon as it’s declassified; she says goodbye, since she’ll be leaving in a few hours.

Teki notices Ethan and apologizes for what Helda did.  He says he’s been promoted to her post, at least until she returns from medical leave, but Quinn assures him that the “leave” is permanent.  Teki heads off to throw out his canisters; Ethan and Cee follow, curious, while Quinn waits for her newts.  Ethan confirms for Teki what Helda had done with the shipment.  Ethan asks about Teki’s canisters, and Teki tells him that they’re samples of contaminants that have been disposed of, which they’re storing outside the station in case they need them for legal or medical reasons.  Teki bags up the canisters, labels the bag, then passes it to a robot who takes it out through an airlock.  Teki opens up a wall panel so they can watch it take the bag to tether to one of the many projections on the station’s surface.

“It’s like the universe’s biggest closet,” mused Teki. “Our own private storage locker. We really ought to clean house and destroy all the really old stuff that was thrown out there in Year One, but it’s not like we’re running out of room. Still, if I’m going to be an Assimiliation Station head, I could organize something . . . responsibility . . . no more playing around . . .”

The ecotech’s words became a buzzing drone in his ears as Ethan’s attention was riveted on a collection of transparent plastic bags tethered a short way down the grid. Each bag seemed to contain a jumble of little white boxes of a familiar type. He had seen just such a little box readied for Quinn’s donation at a Station biolab that morning. How many boxes? Hard to see, hard to count. More than twenty, surely. More than thirty. He could count the bags that contained them, though; there were nine.

“Thrown out,” he whispered. “Thrown—out?”

Ethan silently points out the bags to Cee, who after a moment begins to swear under his breath.  He tells Ethan that he recognizes the boxes, and can even make out the House Bharaputra labels on them.  Ethan says that Helda must have put them outside without leaving any computer records, “throwing them out” where they’d never be found.  Frozen in the vacuum, Ethan thinks that they should still be good.

“We’ve got to tell Quinn,” Ethan began.

Cee’s hands clamped down over Ethan’s wrists. “No!” he hissed. “She has hers. Janine—those are mine.”

“Or Athos’s.”

“No.” Cee was trembling white, his eyes blazing like blue pinwheels. “Mine.”

“The two,” said Ethan carefully, “need not be mutually exclusive.”

In the loaded silence that followed, Cee’s face flared in an exaltation of hope.


See, I told you they weren’t gone…  Just a matter of semantics, a minor dialectical difference, which was enough to convince the Cetagandans that they were.  I wouldn’t have been quite so confident that Helda wouldn’t have screwed them up in some other way just to strike a final blow against Athos, but if she was trying to be surreptitious about it she might not have had the opportunity.  Or she might not have thought it necessary, since they were being left unlabelled in a gigantic space storage locker.  It was, admittedly, sheerest chance that Ethan happened to spy them and recognize them for what they were.  If he’d decided to hang around with Quinn, for instance, he wouldn’t have seen a thing.  So while a lot of the other seemingly bizarre plot twists have reasonable explanations once you know everything that’s going on, this one is truly random.  But I’ll forgive the author for it, because it’s such a nice twist that helps out that nice Ethan boy.

We’ve only seen a few glimpses of Arata, and I don’t even really remember him from previous reads, but this time through I’m slightly intrigued about him.  I think that Miles Vorkosigan would have enjoyed meeting him, sort of like Dag Benin, depending of course on the circumstances.  If it had been a Miles adventure, I’m sure Arata would have turned up earlier, but Elli and Ethan spend more time trying to evade the attention of Station Security, or at least Elli does, so we have to wait until most of the way through the book.  Pity.

Chapter Fifteen

As Ethan and Cee approach the surface of Athos in a shuttle, Ethan points out landmarks to his companion.  Cee asks what kind of welcome Ethan is likely to get, and Ethan says his mission was fairly secret, to keep from alarming people, but at least some of the Population Council should be there, as well as Ethan’s father, and possibly Janos as well.  Ethan wonders how Janos will react to meeting Cee, if he’ll be jealous enough to start doing the work to fight to be Ethan’s designated alternate.

Cee regarded his hands meditatively, and glanced up at Ethan. “And will they view you as a hero, or a traitor, in the end?”

Ethan admits that he’s been praying for guidance on the subject.  Ethan’s cargo is strapped to seats near them, rather than being left to the vagaries of the cargo hold; the other passengers, crew members heading for downside leave and the census takers, are keeping their distance.  He did buy some cultures on Beta Colony as well, to keep the Cetagandans off the scent, but they swapped those for the Bharaputran ones and hid the Betan samples in Ethan’s luggage.  He says that somebody had to make the decision, and the Population Council would probably have been unable to make up their minds, but it needs to be all or nothing, or else it would tear the planet apart.  Except, of course, for the “EQ-1” culture he took from Quinn, but he figures it’ll average out in the long run.  Cee points out that he’s hedging his bets with the Betan cultures, but Ethan says that while he couldn’t bring himself to throw them out entirely, he hopes to splice the telepathy gene into them over time as well, once he’s risen to head up a Reproduction Centre, or even farther.

The welcome committee turns out to consist largely of Rep Centre representatives eager for their new cultures, but Dr. Desroche, the Chairman, and Ethan’s father are all there.  Ethan downplays the problems he encountered.  His father comments on his paleness, and Ethan explains that on Kline Station he couldn’t go outside, on Beta Colony everyone lives underground, and they only spent a week on Escobar.

Ethan suddenly notes Janos’s absence and asks his father about it.  Ethan initially fears the worst, a lightflyer crash, but his father explains that Janos went a little wild after Ethan left, and ended up running off to the Outlands to live on the frontier with fewer restrictions.  Ethan is somewhat relieved, and says that it’s probably for the best that Janos find out what he wants before committing himself to parenthood.

He turned to Terrence Cee, his grin escaping control at last. “Here, Dad, I want you to meet someone—I brought us an immigrant. Only one, but altogether a remarkable person. He’s endured much, to make it to refuge here. He’s been a good traveling companion for the last eight months, and a good friend.”

Ethan introduced Cee; they shook hands, the slight galactic, the tall waterman. “Welcome, Terrence,” said Ethan’s father. “A good friend of my son’s is a son to me. Welcome to Athos.”

Emotion broke through Cee’s habitual closed coolness; wonder, and something like awe. “You really mean that . . . Thank you. Thank you, sir.”

That night, on the verandah of Ethan’s father’s house, Ethan tells Cee that the best way to earn the rights to Janine’s children is earn his parental duty credits through public works, done over and above regular employment.  Ethan takes the plunge and says that he makes enough for two himself, especially with the prospect of promotion ahead of him, and once Ethan has his own sons, then he’d love to have Cee has Primary Nurturer, which is a great job for accumulating duty credits.  He admits it’s not an adventurous life compared to Cee’s experiences up to then, but it would be good experience for Cee’s own children, and Ethan would be happy to be Cee’s Designated Alternate as well.

Cee says that after what his adventures have put him through, something quiet sounds just right.  He mentions to Ethan that he was under the impression that the Designated Alternate relationship was kind of like a marriage, and wonders if he would expect sex to be part of it.

“Well . . .” said Ethan. “No, not necessarily. D.A. arrangements can be, and are, entered into by brothers, cousins, fathers, grandfathers—anyone qualified and willing to act as a parent. Parenthood shared between lovers is just the most common variety. But here you are on Athos, after all, for the rest of your life. I thought, perhaps, in time, you might grow accustomed to our ways. Not to rush you or anything, but if you find yourself getting used to the idea, you might, uh, let me know . . .” Ethan trailed off.

“By God the Father,” Cee’s voice was amused, assured. And had Ethan really feared he would surprise the telepath? “I just might.”

Before going to sleep, Ethan takes a moment to think of Elli Quinn and EQ-1, and then of Dr. Cynthia Jane Baruch, his own “mother”, who had been hired to provide her genes to start out Athos.  He whispers her a quiet salute and prepares to face the future.


So did Cee take himself some tyramine on the shuttle?  Because he seems to be fairly telepathic in this chapter.  I guess it would no longer be that dangerous a substance to buy on Kline Station, although if someone from Cetaganda followed up and found traces of it before Ethan’s ship left…  I guess if Cee were smart, he’d buy it before Elli left with his lookalike so it still wouldn’t be traced back to him.  Or was it just an author goof to toss in some telepathic incidents so Cee could find out that the Athosians were really on the level?  Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

The way Dr. Cynthia Baruch’s name is revealed at the end, I almost expect it to be a reference to something else in the series, the way Miles’s grandmother’s name appears, or “Admiral Naismith” himself.  Of course, it would have to be something long predating the series proper, like a short story farther back in the timeline, or maybe Falling Free or something, but according to the Vorkosigan Companion it isn’t.  The significance of the name is not so much of the name itself, as it is the shift in his attitude toward being able to appreciate women as people, and to think of Baruch as being his mother.  Of course, it’s unlikely that his own attitudes are likely to change much, because even a planet of telepaths won’t be able to find out too much about people they never actually meet…

How is Ethan going to explain all these extra cultures, by the way?  The Betan ones, that is?  Is he just going to insinuate them in quietly, or pretend to receive them as another shipment later on?  How will he explain how he paid for them?  Or maybe he could just explain the matter once the crisis has died down a little, and maybe the Population Council will be grateful that, if they had to pay for two batches of cultures, they actually ended up with two of them in the end.

One hopes that Ethan and Terrence will still be around when the first telepaths begin to come of age, and I suppose they’re young enough that it might happen.  Athos does have some access to galactic medicine, even if it is a bit of frontier world, so lifespans should be in line with at least Barrayar, if not Beta Colony.  And, if you think about, Terrence’s kids will be telepaths as well, since he already carries the gene, so they’ll have two recessives and it’ll be fully expressed.  Their story could be interesting…

Overall Comments

I’m still not sure how I feel about this book.  It has its gripping segments, and a fast-moving plot, once it gets started, but it has a slow beginning, and Ethan isn’t the most capable or resourceful of characters.  Also, the telepathy idea, while intriguing, never feels quite fully formed.  Terrence Cee never makes full use of it, because of the limitations the author put on it, but its impact, even on a remote planet, is likely to be shattering.  And let’s not forget the likelihood that the Cetagandans will, in fact, rediscover it.  As a standalone book, that’s not bad, though it does seem to require a sequel to see where it comes out in the end, but as an adjunct book to a series, it feels like it should eventually come to dominate the plotline unless the author just decides to cop out and ignore it.

Kline Station is a good and well-realized setting, in a way that is usually reserved for planets, space stations being some kind of fragile, utilitarian appendage never gone into in such detail, and seeing Elli Quinn in her native element is a helpful delineator of her character for later books.  She isn’t really a major character in the Miles books for too long, but this book more than hints at how she rose from faceless mercenary.

And that’s it for Ethan of Athos!  When I return in two weeks, it’ll be time to return to Miles in “Labyrinth”.  It looks like I’m going to do that novella in three parts, since it divides fairly well, if not perfectly, into chunks of approximately the right size.  But I will take a week off in between, so see you at the end of July…

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Greetings and welcome back to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread–on time this week, as I’ve generally defined it, at least–for the next, and penultimate, installment of Ethan of Athos.  While this novel doesn’t directly involve the Vorkosigan Saga’s main protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan, he is indirectly involved through his agent Elli Quinn, so it totally counts, according to me, anyway.  This week I cover Chapters Twelve and Thirteen, wherein we discover that last week’s a-little-too-easy climactic confrontation was not the real climax after all, so at least there’s that.

Chapter Twelve

In Quarantine, Rau accompanies his unconscious superior while Ethan is escorted into a meeting with Security personnel, soon joined by Captain Arata.  Though Ethan intends to tell the truth, he finds himself omitting Terrence Cee, the death of Okita and the details of the Cetagandan gene pattern that had “contaminated” the ovarian cultures.  One of the officers points out that Helda did him a favour in saving Athos from that contamination, and Ethan suddenly realizes that they’re afraid he’ll make a stink, which will damage Kline Station’s reputation for the security of their warehouses.  This gives him some leverage, which he begins to make use of.  The charges against him are dropped because of his diplomatic status, and he is assured that Helda will be taking early retirement, and that the two Cetagandans are being deported.

They ask him where the other two Cetagandans are, and Ethan is distressed to realize that Setti is still at large.  He tells them ask Elli Quinn about what happened to Okita, though she’s probably already headed back to the Dendarii, with Cee in tow.  Ethan is free to go, but he asks if he can speak to Millisor before he leaves.  Millisor’s examination is just finished, with no sign of any form of the disease that Quinn had imputed to him, which severely annoys the ecotechs; Arata promises to deal with it.

Ethan enters Millisor’s room, Arata in tow, to find the ghem-lord restrained.  He asks Millisor if he’s convinced now that Athos never had the shipment from Jackson’s Whole; Millisor says he doubts everything, but it does seem unlikely that it was on Athos.  He asks Ethan what he thinks of Terrence Cee, and speculates on whether Cee’s admitted attractiveness was part of his gift.  Ethan says he hasn’t discussed Cee with anyone; Millisor says that Cee must still be on Kline Station.  Ethan says he doesn’t know where Cee is, or Quinn either, for that matter, and wants nothing more to do with them.

Millisor says he admires Quinn, and wonders what her price would be.  Ethan says he doubts any price would be high enough, and explains that she’s obviously in love with her commander.  Millisor wonders, if Ethan is not working with Cee, how he feels about having been Cee’s dupe.  Ethan says all Cee tried to do was immigrate to Athos, and maybe commemorate his wife in the ovarian cultures.  Millisor says it was more than that–the gene-complex was recessive, and had been added to every one of the ovarian cultures, so it would have manifested on Athos two generations later.  Ethan is not slow to see the implications, how the obsolescence of the old cultures would eventually lead to the whole population being bred from the ones Cee had modified until the whole planet carried the telepathy gene.  Only on Athos, so reliant on the cultures and uterine replicators, could this plan have worked, and it explained where Cee’s money had gone on Jackson’s Whole–into splicing the gene-complex into Athos’s cultures.

Millisor tells Ethan that Cee is charming, but only because of his talent, and that he is dangerous, not human, and a virus that must be wiped out.  He asks for Ethan’s help, but Ethan said that Cee didn’t strike him as any worse than Okita, a bored killer, nothing more than a tool for Millisor to use.  Ethan reiterates that he doesn’t know where Cee is, except that he’s not going to Athos, and Millisor regrets that with the shipment he lost a useful tool for locating him.  Ethan leaves, his parting shot being that Millisor’s pitch might have worked on him if he’d tried it when they first met.

Ethan returns to his original hostel room, which he’d hardly had a chance to use, but which still contained all his personal effects.  He thought over his experiences and wondered whether it was day or night, missing Athos.  Restless, he went back out, and began checking into other sources for ovarian cultures; he soon concluded that Quinn had probably been right in recommending Beta Colony.  He planned out a route that went through Escobar, where he could stop over and check them out for economy’s sake.  He is woken from a nap by a call on his comconsole from Terrence Cee.

“Well. I didn’t expect to hear from you again.” Ethan rubbed sleep from his face. “I thought you’d have no further use for the asylum of Athos. You and Quinn both being the practical sort.”

Cee winced, looking distinctly unhappy. “In fact, I’m about to leave,” he said in a dull voice. “I wanted to see you one more time, to—to apologize. Can you meet me in Docking Bay C-8 right away?”

“I suppose,” said Ethan. “Are you off to the Dendarii Mercenaries with Quinn, then?”

“I can’t talk any more now. I’m sorry.” Cee’s image turned to sparkling snow, then emptiness.

Ethan suspects that Quinn was nearby, inhibiting his conversation, and toys with the idea of telling Arata where to find her, but decides that he and Quinn are even and thus quits.  Outside the hostel a dark-skinned man approaches him; Ethan decides he’s the wrong race to be a Cetagandan, thus not Setti, but is still standoffish when the man addresses him by name.  The man offers a message-capsule to him to give to Millisor; Ethan tells him to give it to Kline Station Security instead, but the man tells him to take it anyway, since who knows what fate has in store?  Ethan backs away from him, so the man shrugs and leaves it on a bench instead.  Ethan threatens to turn it in to Security, but the man leaves, unconcerned, and Ethan eventually picks it up, promising to hand it off to Arata at his next opportunity.

The docking bay where he’s to meet Cee is around the other side of the station, so Ethan takes a tube-train.  The docking bay is quiet; Ethan notes one ship docked there, some kind of fast courier, and wonders at Quinn’s expense account.

Terrence Cee, dressed in his green Stationer coveralls, sat wanly on a packing case, alone in the middle of the bay. He looked up as Ethan stepped out of a ramp corridor. “You came quickly, Dr. Urquhart.”

Ethan glanced at the flex tube. “I figured you were catching a scheduled run of some sort. I didn’t realize you’d be traveling in this much style.”

“I thought perhaps you wouldn’t come at all.”

“Because—why? Because I’d found out the whole truth about that shipment?” Ethan shrugged. “I can’t say I approve of what you tried to do. But given the obvious problems your—your race, I guess—would suffer as a minority anywhere else, I think I can understand why.”

A melancholy smile lit Cee’s face, then was gone. “You do? But of course. You would.” He shook his head. “I should have said, I hoped you would not come.”

Cee gestures to where Quinn is moving forward, prodded by a man dressed in a Kline Station Security outfit.  Quinn is minus her jacket, boots, and stunner.  Ethan is initially amused that she’s finally been caught by Security, before he notices that the Security man holds a non-regulation nerve disrupter.  Then he sees Millisor and Rau coming up behind.


Okay, I guess everything wasn’t evenly wrapped up after all.  And apparently Millisor and Rau didn’t have that much trouble getting out of Quarantine after all; I guess it did turn out that they didn’t have Venusian Crotch Rot or whatever, and if Setti had managed to infiltrate Station Security, then he could probably whisk them out.  That might explain why we’ve seen so little of Setti, if he’s been busy lying low as an ace in the hole for Millisor.

Did anyone else think that Ethan should possibly be a little more suspicious about Cee’s call?  I guess he hasn’t seen as many vid-thrillers as he could have (they must have those, even on Athos–if nothing else, a fair sampling of twentieth-century movies wouldn’t violate their censorship laws to any great degree), or he would have spotted the warning signs–a summons to meet far away (the other side of the station), looking uncomfortable and frequently glancing at someone you can’t see, and not being able to talk for very long.  Ethan does rationalize these for different reasons, but I can’t help but think that Miles, or Quinn, would have spotted the difficulty right away.  (Like that guy on the mining station in The Warrior’s Apprentice whose messages were made of 100% recycled other messages, without a continuity editor…)  Oh, well, Ethan’s relative lack of competency is part of his charm, I suppose.  One hopes that Quinn fell for something a little more sophisticated, like Setti in disguise.

Ethan’s conclusion that the dark-skinned man can’t be Cetagandan is suspect on multiple levels.  First of all, there’s no particular reason to think that entire planets have to all be homogeneous, racially, unless each one is supposed to have been founded by a homogeneous culture and then maintained strict immigration guidelines.  Admittedly, Ethan did read up on Cetaganda earlier, so maybe he’s well-informed here, but then it’s troubling in a different way.  Cetagandan ghem-lords are supposed to be genetically superior (though admittedly I’m not sure if Bujold had arrived at that yet when she was writing Ethan of Athos), so if they’re all white…that’s not a good thing for an author to be asserting.  I don’t remember a lot of dark-skinned Barrayarans either, perhaps barring that Greek minority (and I’m never sure if “dark-skinned” is supposed to mean “swarthy in a Mediterranean way” or “dark as a pure-blooded Central African”), but sometimes people go out of their way to never mention skin colour, even when it’s unrealistic.  If somebody has dark skin, I’m going to notice it, and I’ll use it to describe them (to myself, if nothing else), the same way I would if they had red hair or a big nose, without meaning it to be in any way discriminatory except in the most literal sense of “being able to tell different things apart”, but some people seem to write as if people will stop actually noticing these things except on the most superficial level.  It may stop being something used to prejudge people, but I don’t think it will become something nobody even notices.

Chapter Thirteen

Ethan and Quinn both end up in front of the nerve disrupter, while Rau holds a stunner on Cee.  Quinn whispers to Ethan that they tracked her down through her beeper, and wishes she’d gotten rid of it when she had the chance.

Millisor tells Ethan that he’s glad he could join them, so he can dispose of Ethan and Quinn at the same time, since they know too much.  Millisor tells them that he plans to put Quinn and Ethan in a flex-tube, as if they were having an illicit tryst, but Rau will stun them so they will end up vented into space when the next ship arrives.  Ethan is mortified at the thought that the Population Council might believe this story of his death, and Quinn is similarly concerned about Admiral Naismith.  Cee makes an abortive motion, but Rau holds him at bay; Cee apologizes to Ethan for being forced to lure him to the docking bay.

Quinn confirms Setti’s identity for Ethan, and asks if he thinks he could make it across the docking bay if she jumped him; Ethan regretfully tells her no.  He could make it to the flex tube, but that would be pointless since it doesn’t go anywhere except space.  Ethan thinks of the message capsule and takes it out, telling Quinn about the odd man who gave it to him.  Quinn asks what the man looked like, and then excitedly takes the capsule and enters Millisor’s service number, though she’s not sure about the last few digits.  She tosses it to a suspicious Setti, who automatically catches it, then throws herself and Ethan to the floor.  The capsule starts showing a holomessage, and Quinn goes limp with disappointment just before she and Ethan are flung across the room when the capsule explodes.

Ethan is nearly deafened, and he thinks blinded as well until emergency lights come back on.  He can hear faint sirens and the sound of airseals slamming closed, as air is leaking out of a flex-tube seal and the gravity is a little wobbly.  He glances across the bay to see Cee being tackled by Rau and kicked by Millisor; the Cetagandans begin dragging Cee toward their ship.  Ethan runs after them, somewhat unsteadily, and manages to get ahead of them stand in front of the flex-tube.  Millisor gets out a needler and begins to aim it at Ethan, but Cee breaks free and stands in front of Ethan to shield him.  Millisor is about to shoot anyway when he begins to float upward; Quinn is at the gravity controls.

Millisor’s training comes into play rapidly, though, and he twists to counter his spin, aiming his needler back at Ethan and Cee.  Quinn throws the cover of the control panel at him, but Ethan can see it’s not going to make it in time.  Just before Millisor can fire, though, he is hit by a bright plasma bolt and killed instantly.  Rau lunges for the needler, trying to find the new attacker, but misses and ends up tumbling slowly in midair.  Cee spots the shooter up on a catwalk, and shouts that Rau is his to kill, launching himself after the remaining Cetagandan.  Cee’s impetus pushes Ethan against the wall, where he grabs hold and notices that the air leak seems to be getting stronger.

Quinn turns the gravity back higher; Cee and Rau, grappling, sink back to the floor, while Ethan, realizing how high up on the bulkhead he’s hanging, swiftly climbs down, in case Quinn plans on turning it up any higher.  Rau throws Cee aside and lunges for his flex-tube, but is caught by two plasma bolts from up above.  As Ethan goes to Cee, two figures, one of them the man who gave Ethan the message capsule, swing down from the girders and converge on Quinn, who does not seem happy to see them, trying to flee up the wall.  They yank her back down and subdue her, taking her towards the emergency exit as Stationers begin to emerge to seal the damage.  Cee tells Ethan that they’re Bharaputrans from Jackson’s Whole, and says they have to go rescue her.  They have to wait at the emergency airlock until the Jacksonians have cycled through, and then equalize the pressure before they can reenter the station.  While they wait, Cee tells Ethan how Setti sprung Millisor and Rau, pretending to be escorting them to deportation.

They run through now-deserted corridors, trying to find Quinn and her abductors, and finally manage to follow the sound of her voice to a foyer outside a freight lift-tube.

The man in chocolate-brown silk had Quinn shoved up facing a wall, her arms twisted behind her. Her toes stretched and sought the floor, without success.

“Come on, Commander,” the man in pink was saying, “We haven’t got time for this. Where is it?”

“Wouldn’t dream of keeping you,” she replied in a rather smeary voice, as her face was being squashed sideways into the wall. “Ow! Hadn’t you better run off to your embassy before Security gets here? They’ll be all over the place after that bomb blast.”

Ethan and Cee dash into the room and the man in pink aims his plasma gun at them; Quinn shouts out frantically that they’re all friends.  The Bharaputrans are not happy with Quinn, though, for not coming through on her contract.  Quinn protests that she’s had to take things more slowly and subtly, not having diplomatic immunity and not wanting to be exiled from the station.  They tell her that Baron Bharaputra has given her six months, and now wants his money back.  Quinn says she can give it back, but the credit chit is in her jacket…which is back in the docking bay.  The Jacksonians debate on whether she’s telling the truth, since the docking bay is swarming with Security by now.  Quinn points out that she got paid half in advance, and that she did kill Okita and Setti.  They say they have no evidence of Okita’s body, and she killed Setti with their bomb, but when they hear approaching footsteps decide that she can keep her half.  As “interest”, though, they dislocate her left elbow, and then disappear down the lift tube.

Quinn is relieved when they’ve gone, since she didn’t want them to share too much of their information with Station Security.  She confesses that this was actually her first Intelligence assignment, and she didn’t enjoy it as much as Admiral Naismith told her she would.  She and Ethan agree that they both need doctors, Ethan still being somewhat stunned from the explosion, and she advises Cee to flee before Security arrives.  Cee, unable to express his gratitude, flees up the lift tube.  When Security arrives, they arrest Quinn.


Now that’s a nice fight for you, with explosive decompression, plasma arcs, low-gravity gymnastics, and hidden spy bombs.  All they’d need would be a bunch more guns and this would be perfect for the Wachowki Brothers.  The only problem, I guess, is that the bad guys all get to have sort of Disney Villain deaths–the Jacksonians kill Millisor and Rau outright, and Setti by proxy, and Okita’s death was admittedly an accident at the time.  Of course, Ethan isn’t a killer, Quinn can do it but can’t afford to leave too many bodies lying around, and…I guess I’m not sure about Cee.  He didn’t mean to kill the Cetagandan scientist, but he seemed to be willing enough to kill Rau with his bare hands.  The Jacksonians were, at least, foreshadowed chapters earlier, though their timing is fortuitous.  Had they just arrived, or were they just lying low until they could find Quinn and the Cetagandans?

I can’t quite work out if Millisor should have floating up off the ground just because of the lighter gravity.  After all, it’s not like negative gravity was pulling him toward the ceiling, he should have stayed in place unless another force acted on him.  There were the air currents from the leak, I suppose, but Millisor was only decreasing in weight, not mass, so it wasn’t like he should waft away in a breeze.  I guess that his leg muscles, which had presumably been bracing him in place, might have overcompensated and inadvertently pushed him off or tipped him to one side, but I don’t know if that would have been enough to throw off his aim like that.  Or it could have been the arm motion as he was raising his gun, but I don’t know if that would do it either.  Someone who was trained enough to hold a bead on someone while spinning through the air should probably have been able to deal with a sudden unexpected gravity decrease, in my opinion.  So maybe we can pretend that Rau was caught off guard and bumped into Millisor and disrupted his aim instead.  (We really need better antigravity, so we can test these things out in practice without sending people into space or into parabolic arcs.)

A couple of times in the chapter I kept thinking that Cee found something out telepathically.  The first was when he identified the Bharaputrans, but then I realized that he’d been on Jackson’s Whole himself and should be able to recognize them.  Especially since they all seem to be of the same race.  (See last chapter’s comments.)  Then he picked out a direction to go when they were chasing after Quinn and her captors, but he admitted to Ethan shortly thereafter that he had no real idea and had just been guessing.  So I suppose he hadn’t been dosed with more tyramine anywhere in there.

I guess I don’t have a good handle on whether Cee actually liked using his powers, whether he would have actively sought out tyramine if he thought the Cetagandans were out of the way.  His distaste for seeing into the brains of his Cetagandan captors might mean that he didn’t like using his ability in general, but I’m not sure if that was conclusive.  He gets so little opportunity on Kline Station, and he only does it the once when he wants to be sure of his allies before putting his trust in them.  Does he yearn for a normal life, or does he yearn to stretch his abilities to their fullest?

Whoo, finished two chapters by Tuesday, so that’s good.  Only two more and the book’s over, and then I have to decide whether to take a full week off before and/or after doing the novella “Labyrinth”.  Right now I’m guessing that since after “Labyrinth” is another novella, “Borders of Infinity”, I’ll do the two of them together as if they were a book (like, say, two-thirds of Borders of Infinity), with a gap before and after, but not between.  (I did a break before “The Mountains of Mourning” but not after, apparently, so there’s that.)  Then I have to figure out how many segments to do “Labyrinth” in, since it doesn’t have chapter breaks.  Guess I’ll do some word counting and see how it breaks up into scenes.  Anyway, until next week, when Dr. Ethan Urquhart receives a couple of pleasant surprises…

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Welcome back, every so slightly belatedly, to the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, wherein I go through the books of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga a chapter or two at a time, summarize them, share some of the best quotes, and come up with a few insights to share with you.

On some planet, somewhere in the galaxy, this is probably Tuesday, but on this planet it looks like I just got a day behind due to personal reasons that I’m not really going to go into because this isn’t a personal blog.  How will this affect the future of the Reread?  More on that below, but for now, here’s the next two chapters of Ethan of Athos, as we see what hijinks Elli Quinn, Terrence Cee, and Dr. Ethan Urquhart get up to when they’re all working together against Ghem-Colonel Millisor.

Chapter Ten

Ethan shares some of the wine with Terrence, but stops before getting more than a little buzzed.  Cee asks if he’s sure that none of the shipment that arrived on Athos could have been part of the original contents, and Ethan confirms that it was nothing more than trash, and there’s no way that Janine’s cultures could have been in there.  Cee says he saw the original shipment onto the shuttle on Jackson’s Whole; Quinn says that means the switch must have happened on Kline Station, during the two months they were waiting for Ethan’s ship, and hundreds of ships could have left with the crates in that time.  Quinn admits that if she was going to track it down, she’d rather let Millisor do the work and just follow him.  She’d also rather just take a genetic sample directly from Terrence.  Cee says that eventually Millisor’s team will discover his arrival on Kline Station, so he can’t wait that long.  Quinn reminds him that they’ll be wasting time following Teki around.

Cee asks Ethan if they want to recover the shipment, and Ethan says they’ve pretty much written it off as a dead loss.  He’d rather buy a new one than recover the old one but attract a Cetagandan attack on their planet, and would almost feel safer if Millisor just recovered it.  Cee says that he cannot accept the results of the Cetagandans regain the telepath gene, with the possibility to breed new telepaths without so much inconvenient free will.  Quinn points out that Millisor’s mostly interested in keeping the gene out of everyone else’s hands, since the Cetagandans will eventually be able to reconstruct it now that they know it’s possible.  She adds that it might be better if, by that time, there were a race of free telepaths available to oppose them.

Cee asks if Admiral Naismith would be any better, and Ethan suddenly realizes that Cee’s questioning indicates that his telepathic abilities have been activated.  Quinn suggests just giving the gene to all of the governments, giving Millisor apoplexy and keeping Athos from being singled out, but Cee says he doesn’t want to risk creating that many persecuted slave telepath minorities.  Ethan realizes that he’s present at the cusp of a major historical change, and finds the sensation dizzying.

Cee says that he’d rather just kill himself and be done with it, except for his promise to Janine.  He tells Quinn that if she can find Janine’s samples for him, he’ll go along with her.  Quinn points out that her mission is essentially over, and she could satisfy her commander simply by stunning Cee and taking a tissue sample, just for their information.

“What do you want of me?” Cee demanded. Anger edged his voice. “To trust you?”

Her lips thinned. “You don’t trust anybody. You never had to. Yet you demand that others trust you.”

“Oh,” said Cee, looking suddenly enlightened. “That.”

“You breathe one word of that,” she smiled through clenched teeth, “and I’ll arrange an accident for you like Okita never dreamed of.”

“Your Admiral’s personal secrets are of no interest to me,” said Cee stiffly. “They’re hardly relevant to this situation anyway.”

Cee then turns his attention to Ethan, which involuntarily causes Ethan to immediately think of all the sins and secrets that he’d want to keep hidden, including his physical attraction to Terrence.  He wishes he had the chance to really try to sell Cee on the beauty of his world of Athos, to take him sailing on their oceans.  Cee comments that he never saw any oceans during his life on Cetaganda, and Ethan realizes how transparent he’s being.  Cee asks if Ethan can shelter Janine’s genes as well as Cee himself, and Ethan admits that he doesn’t know he’s even going to save himself yet.

Quinn points out that they haven’t found the ovarian samples yet, and none of the parties involved seem to know where they are.  Cee says that anyone who knew what it was would probably covet it, including governments and criminals.  Ethan suggests House Bharaputra, but Quinn points out that any Bharaputrans who knew about them were killed by Millisor’s group, or else Quinn would have been tasked with recovering Millisor and the samples rather than just killing the Cetagandans.  Ethan suggests some random entrepreneur, but Quinn says that’s all they need, to widen the circle of suspects.  She asks Cee if he’s done with his scanning, and Cee says he is, obviously suffering from a major headache.  Quinn goes out to gather more information; Ethan gives Cee some painkillers, and they both try to get some sleep.

Quinn returns a while later, waking Ethan and Cee.  Nothing new from Millisor and Rau, and no information from attempting to pump the warehouse supervisor.  Cee notes the time and says he has to get to work, to maintain his cover identity and continue working toward a ticket off the station.  Quinn says she can take care of the ticket, but Cee says she’ll only offer it in the direction she chooses.  Cee goes off to get ready, and Quinn asks Ethan if he said anything more.  Ethan says they just slept, but he’s been trying to think of a new angle for the shipment, like pursuing where the trash that arrived on Athos might have come from.

They are interrupted by a signal on Quinn’s beeper, on Teki’s emergency code.  Quinn calls back and discovers that it’s Teki’s girlfriend Sara.  She says that Teki never met her for their date last night, and starts to leave an annoyed message with Quinn, but Quinn, alarmed, says she hasn’t heard from Teki either.  She tells Sara that she saw Teki just before his work shift; Sara said she’d been calling around to Teki’s friends, and got Quinn’s number from her father.  Quinn becomes very serious and tells Sara to file a missing persons report for Teki, to use Quinn’s name and talk to Captain Arata directly.

Quinn hangs up and says that Millisor has probably decided to pick up Teki for questioning, which would be bad because he doesn’t know about much except for Elli’s involvement, and this will blow her cover.  Cee says that Millisor must be getting desperate.

“I meant to push Millisor off-balance.” Quinn bit through a fingernail with an audible snap. “But not that far off. I gave them no reason to take Teki. Or I wouldn’t have, if he’d done what I told him and turned around immediately—I knew better than to involve a non-professional. Why didn’t I listen to myself? Poor Teki won’t know what hit him.”

“You didn’t have any such scruples about involving me,” remarked Ethan, miffed.

“You were involved already. And besides, I didn’t use to baby-sit you when you were a toddler. And besides . . .” she paused, shooting him a look strangely akin to the one Cee had just given him, “you underestimate yourself,” she finished.

Quinn starts to leave the room, then stays behind and paces instead.  She wonders why they’ve had him so long; Teki didn’t have a tracer on him, like Ethan did, and his past is well-documented on the station, unlike Ethan’s.  Cee points out that they couldn’t find anything out about Ethan, but if they think he’s involved anyway, then they’ll be less likely to give up on Teki.  Quinn says they’re likely in Millisor’s room, the one she hasn’t been able to bug, and she tries to puzzle out a way to get into it.  She says that Millisor is likely trying to provoke her into acting hastily, and tries to think of what Admiral Naismith would do.

“Never do yourself,” muttered Quinn, “what you can con an expert into doing for you. That’s what he’d say. Tactical judo from the space magician himself.” Her straight back held the dynamism of zen meditation. When she turned her face was radiant with jubilation. “Yes, that’s exactly what he’d do! Sneaky little dwarf, I love you!” She saluted an invisible presence and dove for the comconsole.

Cee and Ethan stand by in puzzlement as Quinn places a call to the Ecobranch Epidemiology Hotline.  She reports a potential disease vector for a particularly nasty new strain of “Varusan Crotch-rot”, which she blushingly confesses to have caught from him herself.  She gives Millisor’s cover identity and provides her real name before signing off, telling Cee and Ethan that she’s just committed a major crime by her false report.  She says that Ecobranch may need some backup against the Cetagandans, so they head off to help.


See, I told you Teki was the Ivan!  He’s even been taken hostage to fulfill the “dude in distress” role.  Tough luck for him, of course, especially if he’s getting the interrogation that Ethan got, except with less reason…  Except being related to that dangerous provocateuse Elli Quinn, that is.

More of Elli’s crush on Admiral Naismith, with one of those “I love you” outbursts that would have been incredibly awkward if Miles had actually been in the room.  To be offset by “sneaky little dwarf”, to be sure.  Her willingness to implement her plan by not only perjuring herself (sort of) but admitting to sex with a disease-carrier is heroic, to be sure.

I’m going to assume that the secret about Admiral Naismith that Elli is so concerned about Terrence spilling is Naismith’s dual identity as Lord Miles Vorkosigan.  I actually wasn’t sure that Elli was in the loop on that one, but I guess she might have figured it out during the trip back to Beta Colony in The Warrior’s Apprentice, if nothing else.

Both Terrence and Elli seem to be convinced that Ethan is totally underestimating his competence here, and I have to admit, I’m not sure why.  The list of Ethan’s actual achievements so far amount to keeping his head above water, and that with a lot of help from other people.  Maybe he should be getting a medal just for being brave enough to leave his planet when he thought the rest of the galaxy was like Land of the Succubi, but somehow I don’t think Elli, at least, would give him any credit for that one.  Sure, he is a skilled doctor, and he shows a certain amount of determination, but I’m sure he’s convinced that he’s the last hope for his planet’s future; does that make him heroic?  I’m not sure I buy it.

Chapter Eleven

Ethan, Quinn and Cee go down to the corridor outside Millisor’s room; Cee stays by the lift tubes with one stunner, while Ethan and Quinn position themselves where they can keep a watch on Millisor’s door.  Quinn has the other stunner, leaving Ethan armed with nothing more than a medkit.  She tells Ethan that Teki will doubtless be needing a fast-penta antagonist as soon as they can get to him.

They duck into a door niche when two Ecobranch personnel and a Security guard come down the hallway with a sealed passenger pallet.  Ethan is dismayed to see that one of them is Helda; Quinn encourages him to act inconspicuous, drawing him close to cuddle, which of course makes him intensely uncomfortable, but he tries to play along.  Quinn’s beeper goes off, and she checks it to see that it’s Millisor calling, probably having squeezed her number out of Teki to try to pressure her.

Helda buzzes the room and calls “Harman Dal”‘s name, but nobody responds.  She points out to the Security guard that it’s definitely occupied, and with company.  After the third buzz with no response, she tries an override, but it still doesn’t open, which the Security guard notes happily is a fire-safety violation.  Helda, incensed, accesses the fire-control panel and taps in a code which is followed by a muffled roar and cries from within the room.  Quinn explains to Ethan that this is the station version of a sprinkler system–a system to pump all the air out of a room.  They hear pounding on the door from inside, but Quinn whispers that they can’t open it from the inside because of the pressure differential.

Helda reverses the controls and pumps the air back; the door pops open and Millisor and Rau stumble out.  Millisor begins protesting about his diplomatic immunity protecting him against anything short of a major felony, but Helda says that a biocontrol emergency overrides any of the laws that might protect transients.  Rau spots Ethan and Quinn, and points them out to Millisor, who subsides.

The Security man spots the Cetagandans’ hostage inside, tied to a chair, and bleeding.  Quinn steps forward to offer Ethan’s medical assistance, and they enter the room, followed by Helda.  Teki is tied up with wires that have cut into his wrists and ankles, and has a bloody nose and a couple of minor head wounds, but his eyes are bright with fast-penta intoxication.  Helda recognizes Teki and begins to berate him, but Teki says muzzily that he’s off-shift and doesn’t have to put up with her.  The security guard asks if this was a “private act” or not, and Ethan tells him curtly that he was kidnapped, drugged and tortured as he cuts Teki loose.

Helda, closing in, turned her head at the sound of Ethan’s voice and stared at him. “You’re no doctor,” she gasped. “You’re that moron from Docks and Locks again. My department wants a word with you!”

Teki yelped with laughter, causing Ethan to drop the sterile sponge he’d been applying to his ankle. “Joke’s on you, Helda! He really is a doctor.” He leaned toward Ethan, nearly tipping the chair, and confided conspiratorially, “Don’t let on you’re an Athosian, or she’ll pop an artery. She hates Athos.” He nodded happily, then, exhausted, let his head loll sideways again.

Ethan tells her that he is, indeed, a doctor from Athos, and an Ambassador, on a special mission.  Teki warns Ethan not to tell her that, because she’s been irrational about Athos ever since her son snuck off there–at age 32.  Helda asks him if he has an antidote for the truth serum, so they can sort this all out down in quarantine.  Ethan begins to think about how Helda has near-dictatorial powers down there, and shouts for Quinn, who enters, hearing Millisor and Rau with her stunner.

He tells her that the one thing they hadn’t figured out was where whoever-it-was had gotten the material to replace the ovarian cultures destined for Athos.  Very few people would have had access to human, or bovine, ovaries on Kline Station, except maybe someone like Helda who had access to a lot of cadavers, and even they must have run out of time before the shipment was due to leave, hence the frantic cow-part substitutions to try to cover it up.  Helda tells him he’s crazy and repeats that they need to get to Quarantine; Ethan asks about the shrink-wrap that they found as well, and Teki chimes in that they use the shrink-wrapper all the time.

Ethan asks Helda why, and she tells him that she wants to cut those “motherless unnatural bastards” off, until her son came home and found a real woman, and gave her some grandchildren that she’d be allowed to visit…  The Security man is agog at the prospect of arresting an eco-cop.  Millisor is more interested in what she did with the ovarian cultures that had been in the shipment.  Helda says she threw them out, and Millisor becomes livid with rage, lunging at her to be felled by two stunner beams.  Quinn points out Rau as the escaped fugitive from the other day, and suggests they search the room for contraband military equipment.

The Security man and Helda’s fellow eco-cop insist they all go down to Quarantine, which Rau will find much harder to break out of than mere detention cells, and more Security guards show up to back him up.

“Yes, sir?” said one of the new officers.

“Took you long enough,” said the Security man. “Search that one,” he pointed to Rau, “and then you can help us run ’em all to Quarantine. These three are accused of vectoring communicable disease. That one’s been fingered as the jailbreak from C-9. This one’s accused of theft by that one, who appears to be wearing a Station code-uniform to which he is not entitled, and who also claims that one over there was kidnapped. I’ll have a printout as long as I am tall of charges for the one out cold on the floor when he wakes up. Those three are all gonna need first aid—”

Ethan, reminded, slipped up to Teki and pressed the hypospray of fast-penta antagonist into his arm. He felt almost sorry for the young man as his foolish grin was rapidly replaced by the expression of a man with a terminal hangover. The Security team in the meanwhile were shaking all sorts of glittering mysterious objects out of the unresisting Rau.

“—and the pretty lady in the gray outfit who seems to know so much about everybody else’s business I’m holding as a material witness,” the Security man concluded. “Ah—where is she?”


Final confrontation!  The good guys have defeated the bad guys, and the puzzle of the missing ovarian cultures has finally been solves, so we must be close to the end!  Or so it seems…but there’s still four chapters left, and surely there can’t be that much denouement left, can there?  There must be a few loose plot threads around…like House Bharaputra, or the other Cetagandan guy, Setti.  And I’m not convinced that the ovarian cultures are actually lost forever, but I can’t remember if I have grounds for that optimism or not.  I know that Ethan doesn’t go home empty-handed…  Oh, and Terrence Cee was standing around down by the lift tubes being conveniently absent for this chapter.  I guess if Millisor had come out to find him in the hallway, he’d really have been unable to restrain himself, so it’s probably for the best.

Anyway, it’s a great scene, showing that the station authorities are not entirely powerless after all, if you can get them mobilized in the right direction.  Only Ecobranch seems to have the authority to go in without warrants, though, whereas Security can’t do much unless they find actual evidence, hence the necessity for Elli’s prevarication.  And the reason why making those false claims is a serious crime, of course, because of the monster they unleash.  Looks like she skipped out before she could get charged, but good luck to her getting off the station, since she used her real name and everything.

I barely remembered about Helda from before, but the author took care to have her show up several times, so she became a believable antagonist.  Her motivations have nothing to do with the whole Cetaganda-Terrence Cee plotline at all, except for the coincidental involvement of Athos and the effect her actions had on the various factions.  We don’t really like her, and unlike Ethan I don’t even have that much sympathy for her after we discover the reason she hates Athos.  I mean, her son left, and reading between the lines it was probably because nothing he did, and no woman he dated, was ever good enough for her, and he’s been sufficiently traumatized by it to go to a planet that will keep him from ever having to see her again.  So in return she tries to wreck the future of an entire planet?  I’m not sure she even fully understand the damage she was doing, but on the other hand, she admitted she was willing to keep doing it as long as she had to…to get her son to come back.  I can’t even accuse her of having good intentions, and I can’t even believe that she’d forgive her son if he came back, or stop picking on his girlfriends, or be nicer to him.  She’s not a borderline psychopath like Millisor (or, you know, Bothari), but…well, maybe she is.  She’s definitely lacking in a lot of human empathy, which is probably why she likes being able to lord it over people down in Ecobranch and punish people for whatever minor infractions she could find.  With luck she won’t get to do that anymore…

Also with any luck I’ll be back next week for the next two chapters, and I wouldn’t even rule out getting back to my Tuesday schedule, but I’ll have to see.  This week was a clear sign that I shouldn’t always do it on the last two days, because things happen, and my life is in a bit of flux right now, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to get myself to work too far ahead.  If I can’t handle it, I may drop back to one chapter a week for a while.  I’ve been trying to emulate Leigh Butler’s tremendous Wheel of Time rereads, and while she’s kept up a fairly good schedule, even she had to take a week off every once in a while, so be prepared for the occasional gap.  If I’m planning to skip an entire week, I’ll try to post a note to that effect; otherwise I’ll just try to come out with it a day or two late.  I’ll have to play it by ear, but all in all, I’m still enjoying this enough that I’m not likely to just up and quit without a more major personal upheaval than I’ve encountered thus far.

So–hopefully you’ll see two more chapters next week, so we’ll see which, if any, of those loose plot threads, show up to plague our heroes.  As always, if you can’t wait that long, you can always read ahead on your own.

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